In 2003, Ismawati and Bali Fokus, in cooperation with a local Rotary Club, initiated a solid waste management program with Temesi Village in Gianyar, Bali consisting of a waste management facility owned and operated by the village itself. Drawing on her experience with a tourism waste recovery facility in Jimbaran, Bali, Ismawati and the organizations recruited and trained local residents to operate the facility at the landfill site. Workers now separate waste into recyclables, compostable and residuals to transport to the dumpsite. Income from the sale of recyclable materials and compost benefits local farmers. By 2009, the plant employed more than 40 local residents and received carbon credits from the voluntary market to support the sustainability aspect of the project.
Ismawati also developed the “decentralised solution initiative,” focusing on village households in a low-income urban area of Bali and other cities in Indonesia. Ismawati looked to housewives as her partners. The goal was to develop community programs that reduce the volume of waste taken to municipal dumpsites by minimizing household-level waste. The core team trained housewives in easy-to-learn daily practices, such as waste separation and composting, performed at home using simple household tools. By 2009, the program involved 500 households. Bali Fokus estimated that household waste in the participating villages was reduced by 50 percent. Some women sell their compost at local markets, thus creating a sustainable, income-generating practice for their communities. Recyclables are often crafted into sellable items, creating yet another income stream for local people.
Seeking to build upon the positive results of these programs, Ismawati was involved in the development of SANIMAS in 2001-2003. SANIMAS, meaning “sanitation by communities” in Bahasa, is centered on Ismawati’s creation of a series of replicable waste and sanitation management options for urban poor settlements. Depending on a locality’s needs, resources and community-driven priorities, Ismawati, Bali Fokus and three other NGO partners provided education and capacity-building on specific sustainable waste management and sanitation programs. Infrastructure was often supported by the local and central governments. Community contributions and participation, although small compared to government support, are essential for the programs’ long-term sustainability. As of 2008, SANIMAS had grown into a nationwide initiative reaching hundreds of locales across Indonesia, adding at least 75 small and medium-sized cities to the program every year.
Ismawati was also involved with national agencies in crafting Indonesia’s first-ever bill on waste management and waste management strategy related to climate change issues. During this process, Ismawati succeeded in moving the bill away from environmentally damaging practices such as incineration.
In 2008, Ismawati expanded her area of interest by establishing Indonesia’s Toxics-Free Network. She connected with more Indonesian NGOs and communities to work against the spread of toxic subtances from burning wastes, pesticides, and heavy metals such as mercury.
Together with Bali Fokus, Ismawati is currently leading a program which trains health workers and women in Indonesia’s artisanal and small-scale gold mining hotspots to reduce the community’s risk of exposure to mercury — a metal used in gold extraction — and identify early symptoms of mercury poisoning. This program is being supported by the Jewish Community Foundation and the Goldman Environmental Foundation.